Uncontracted players still eligible for selection – WICB

Chris Gayle, Darren Bravo, Andre Russel, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine and Darren Sammy will be eligible for selection for upcoming tournaments, including the World Twenty20, despite not being given annual retainer contracts by the West Indies Cricket Board.

The only condition the WICB has placed is that the players will need to meet criteria set in place by the selection panel, led by former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd. The six players are not part of the group of 15 who were given retainer contracts for the period between October 1, 2015, and September 30, 2016.

According to Michael Muirhead, the WICB’s chief executive, the selectors had shortlisted 15 players for the contracts based on certain criteria that were drawn keeping in mind the future of West Indies cricket. Muirhead pointed out that the aforementioned six players – including Sammy who captains the West Indies T20 side – did not fit into the selection panel’s vision and hence were not given a contract.

“The selectors did the retainers based on where they saw West Indies cricket going and the philosophy which they wanted to encourage and adopt, principally being loyal to commitment and really build for the longer form of the game,” Muirhead told ESPNcricinfo on Tuesday. “Lloyd had previously said how and where he was projecting our cricket to go, and how he wanted to build it.”

According to Muirhead, the 15 players were shortlisted by the panel and endorsed by the WICB based on the “combination of their performances in the regional tournaments as well as their attitude”.

Still, Muirhead insisted the six players should not misread the situation as they would be eligible for forthcoming series, if the selectors deemed fit.

Some of the six players have failed to feature in the list of contracted players in the past, for reasons ranging from disputes with the WICB to voluntarily declining the retainer. In January 2015, Gayle and Narine had refused the retainer contracts as they wanted to focus on playing domestic Twenty20 leagues around the world, where they are marquee players.

“When Chris Gayle and Narine refused our retainer contracts some years ago it was so that they had the freedom to do what they wanted,” Muirhead said. “But they are eligible to play all our games if they meet our criteria. This not a penalty.”

Muirhead said most of the players had made the decision to make themselves unavailable because they wanted to be free to play in T20 leagues to earn more. “And they took that business decision to do so,” Muirhead said.

Muirhead also stressed that most of the six players had already made public their intentions of not playing Test cricket. “Many of those players have withdrawn from the long form of the game officially and are not interested in playing for the West Indies in all formats,” he said.

In the last two years, Bravo and Sammy announced their retirement from Test cricket. Pollard has never played Test cricket and is seen by selectors as a limited-overs specialist. Although Lloyd has always been keen for Russell to play Test cricket, the allrounder told the chairman of selectors he would like to play only limited-overs cricket due to a bad knee. Narine, who has played six Tests, is busy remodelling his bowling action after he was suspended by the ICC in November last year. Only Gayle, a 103-Test veteran, has openly stated he is still keen to return to Test cricket in 2016.

(Taken from ESPN Sports Media Ltd.)